It’s daunting to realize that all of those scriptures about how we should treat each other and demonstrate love apply to marriage. Sure, I want to “bear with one another” when discussing worship changes with a friend I see once a week in Bible class, but bearing with my husband when he forgets for the 103rd time to turn off the shower head and I’m doused with water while attempting to draw a bath, ugh. “Share one another’s burdens” is relatively easy when my girlfriend needs a shoulder to cry on but less appealing when it involves my hubby relating for 226th time the struggles of completing a work project only identified by an acronym that I knew the meaning of back in 1998.
In my self-help dominated world, I would prefer to open up my Bible to the chapter entitled, “How to Achieve a Godly Marriage in 30 Days.” Instead, God chose to reveal Himself and His will with narratives of His people, commands and guidelines, passages of worship and prayer, and relatively little straight advice. Sure, the Proverbs have plenty of tips, but “Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and ill-tempered wife” (21:19) is not what you want your husband to read so much as “Step 1: Bring her flowers every day. Step 2: Compliment her cooking. Step 3: Remember her half-birthday.” And so on. Even when I look for the word “marriage” in my Bible, it occurs 49 times. That’s all?!!
Yet the recipe for a good marriage is throughout God’s Word. Because marriage is the crucible for personal relationship growth; it’s where we most reveal our capacity to live as loving people. That’s why 1 Corinthians 13, a passage about how we should love one another in the church, has become standard fare for wedding ceremonies. It applies.
Extrapolate a little further, and you’ll see that all those love principles apply to the marriage bed. Imagine placing in parentheses the phrase “in the bedroom” after every description in 1 Corinthians 13. Thus, “Love is patient (in the bedroom), love is kind (in the bedroom). It does not envy (in the bedroom), it does not boast (in the bedroom),” and so on.
Eventually, we get to “Love is not self-seeking (in the bedroom).” But to be honest, sometimes we are. At the very least, we’re “scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” We have a tendency to sing Janet Jackson’s What Have You Done for Me Lately? in the back of our minds. We want sex when we want it, where we want it, the way we want it, and sometimes not at all. Don’t bother me with your sexual needs; I’ll let you know when mine need fulfilling.
This is particularly tempting for the woman because men want the sexual act more than we do or at least require less atmosphere, preparation, and general ta-da! to be raring to go. So we can often set the terms.
It’s somewhat like arranging furniture in a new house. When moving in, we women want to direct the placement of love seats, settees, end tables, coffee tables, wall art, bookcases, lamps, knick knacks, and crisp House Beautiful magazines. He’s content to walk in, plop the recliner in front of the TV, and call it a day. But since he won’t get to sit in his recliner with drink in one hand and remote in the other until you’re happy with the living room configuration, he hauls stuff from one spot to another until you deem yourself satisfied.
We’re often in control, ladies. But love is not self-seeking (in the bedroom).
Think of the marriage bed equivalent of perching his Lazy-Boy to face a big-screen. What would that look like for you? When was the last time you went in there and thought about what he would like?
I’m not suggesting that you do something against your conscience, simply that you think about pleasing your spouse. Sex is the most intimate expression of caring for another human being–or at least it should be. Sex, the way God designed it, isn’t about getting our own Meg-Ryan-in-a-diner moment or “getting it over with,” it’s about finding ways to give your marriage partner intense affection and pleasure.
And that, my friends, brings us to 1 Corinthians 13:13: “The greatest of these is love.”